Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution, now also known as the First Industrial Revolution, was the transition to new manufacturing processes in Europe and the US, in the period from about 1760 to sometime between 1820 and 1840. This transition included going from hand production methods to machines, new chemical manufacturing and iron production processes, the increasing use of steam power and water power, the development of machine tools and the rise of the mechanized factory system. The Industrial Revolution also led to an unprecedented rise in the rate of population growth.

The Industrial Revolution marks a major turning point in history; almost every aspect of daily life was influenced in some way. In particular, average income and population began to exhibit unprecedented sustained growth. Some economists say that the major impact of the Industrial Revolution was that the standard of living for the general population began to increase consistently for the first time in history, although others have said that it did not begin to meaningfully improve until the late 19th and 20th centuries.

An economic recession occurred from the late 1830s to the early 1840s when the adoption of the original innovations of the Industrial Revolution, such as mechanized spinning and weaving, slowed and their markets matured. Innovations developed late in the period, such as the increasing adoption of locomotives, steamboats and steamships, hot blast iron smelting and new technologies, such as the electrical telegraph, widely introduced in the 1840s and 1850s, were not powerful enough to drive high rates of growth. Rapid economic growth began to occur after 1870, springing from a new group of innovations in what has been called the Second Industrial Revolution. These new innovations included new steel making processes, mass-production, assembly lines, electrical grid systems, the large-scale manufacture of machine tools and the use of increasingly advanced machinery in steam-powered factories.

The share of value added by the cotton textile industry in Britain was 2.6% in 1760, 17% in 1801 and 22.4% in 1831. Value added by the British woollen industry was 14.1% in 1801. Cotton factories in Britain numbered approximately 900 in 1797. In 1760 approximately one-third of cotton cloth manufactured in Britain was exported, rising to two-thirds by 1800. In 1781 cotton spun amounted to 5.1 million pounds, which increased to 56 million pounds by 1800. In 1800 less than 0.1% of world cotton cloth was produced on machinery invented in Britain. In 1788 there were 50,000 spindles in Britain, rising to 7 million over the next 30 years.

British cloth could not compete with Indian cloth because India's labor cost was approximately one-fifth to one-sixth that of Britain's. In 1700 and 1721 the British government passed Calico Acts in order to protect the domestic woollen and linen industries from the increasing amounts of cotton fabric imported from India.

Realising that the expiration of the Arkwright patent would greatly increase the supply of spun cotton and led to a shortage of weavers, Edmund Cartwright developed a vertical power loom which he patented in 1785. In 1776 he patented a two-man operated loom which was more conventional. Cartwright built two factories; the first burned down and the second was sabotaged by his workers. Cartwright's loom design had several flaws, the most serious being thread breakage. Samuel Horrocks patented a fairly successful loom in 1813. Horock's loom was improved by Richard Roberts in 1822 and these were produced in large numbers by Roberts, Hill & Co.

Arguably the first highly mechanised factory was John Lombe's water-powered silk mill at Derby, operational by 1721. Lombe learned silk thread manufacturing by taking a job in Italy and acting as an industrial spy; however, because the Italian silk industry guarded its secrets closely, the state of the industry at that time is unknown. Although Lombe's factory was technically successful, the supply of raw silk from Italy was cut off to eliminate competition. In order to promote manufacturing the Crown paid for models of Lombe's machinery which were exhibited in the Tower of London.

The solutions to the sulfur problem were the addition of sufficient limestone to the furnace to force sulfur into the slag and the use of low sulfur coal. Use of lime or limestone required higher furnace temperatures to form a free-flowing slag. The increased furnace temperature made possible by improved blowing also increased the capacity of blast furnaces and allowed for increased furnace height. In addition to lower cost and greater availability, coke had other important advantages over charcoal in that it was harder and made the column of materials (iron ore, fuel, slag) flowing down the blast furnace more porous and did not crush in the much taller furnaces of the late 19th century.

The development of the stationary steam engine was an important element of the Industrial Revolution; however, during the early period of the Industrial Revolution, most industrial power was supplied by water and wind. In Britain by 1800 an estimated 10,000 horsepower was being supplied by steam. By 1815 steam power had grown to 210,000 hp.

Maudslay left Bramah's employment and set up his own shop. He was engaged to build the machinery for making ships' pulley blocks for the Royal Navy in the Portsmouth Block Mills. These machines were all-metal and were the first machines for mass production and making components with a degree of interchangeability. The lessons Maudslay learned about the need for stability and precision he adapted to the development of machine tools, and in his workshops he trained a generation of men to build on his work, such as Richard Roberts, Joseph Clement and Joseph Whitworth.

A new method of producing glass, known as the cylinder process, was developed in Europe during the early 19th century. In 1832 this process was used by the Chance Brothers to create sheet glass. They became the leading producers of window and plate glass. This advancement allowed for larger panes of glass to be created without interruption, thus freeing up the space planning in interiors as well as the fenestration of buildings. The Crystal Palace is the supreme example of the use of sheet glass in a new and innovative structure.

 

 


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